Which Food to Send in a Care Package Going to the Philippines

We could just dream, can we?  Opening our cupboards and they would be loaded with items we have grown to love while living abroad. 

Living in a country raining with balikbayan boxes (care packages) sent by family and friends abroad, I have had my fair share of stuffing a super jumbo box while I was living in the Middle East with items I bought during pay day. I packed the box and made sure each space and cranny was meticulously occupied. Shipping it gives one a great feeling, once it is completely full. 

The greatest reward is to see their smiling faces once they receive the box, for the satisfaction that our hard earned money made our families happy back home.

I have also heard stories from friends living in the Philippines who received ridiculous items as soon as they unwrap their packing tape sealed boxes.  Long behold, they got sugar and rice!  What were they thinking? There is sugar and rice in the Philippines!

Don't worry, I was guilty of that one too! I sent jasmine rice once and I made a mistake of having boxes of detergent in the same shipment. Guess what happened? The rice smelled and tasted like laundry soap and they had to endure that until it was finished. (Oops sorry). 

With the rise of S&R and Landers, it's now easy to find products from U.S. and Canada here. It's the European goods that are really hard to find and most of the time, they're extremely expensive! Tell that to someone who knows Rustan's, Brera Deli, Santi's and all the international sections of every supermarket by heart.

I know it's the thought that counts. But, (yes a big but) if we want to make the most out of our hard earned money, why not get something that is not available here in the Philippines? At least something that is difficult to find. Or things that are more expensive in the Philippines like infant formula and diapers.  

Give something that the receiver fancies that you know they will never get back home.  

Take my friend, Tintin who surprised me with a box. I call it 'Heaven in a Package' because she understood that for someone who's a coffee addict, you can never go wrong with specialty coffee. She sent me different kinds and along with the latest IKEA catalog. With it, she knows I love cooking so she sent food and condiments that will be difficult to find where we are. 

Thanks Tin for the goodies! Love 'em so much!

It is important to understand who you're giving it to and what they need the most. 

Here I have made a list of hard to find items in the Philippines for people with an international and European palate:

Ahem, saffron! (Kapal or thick face of me to ask haha) Okay, I know it's expensive and that's asking too much. There are limited selections of spices and dry herbs here. Any spice missing from the McCormick brand is definitely very difficult to find here. Indian spices for instance are available in Indian Grocery stores but not every city in the Philippines has one. Garam masala, turmeric, etc. are always welcome, but please don't send these with clothes. You get my drift. :)

Olive Oil
This is very expensive in the Philippines. Middle East has great selections of olive oil. Plus they're tax free so they're reasonably priced. Truffle oil, anyone?

Dijon Mustard
The real one. The one that shoots right through your nose with your first teaspoon. Not the American version. You might recall I wrote about my mustard hunting in the Philippines.

Non-sweet Mayonnaise
Sunflower oil based mayonnaise without a hint of sweetness. Just like the one I wrote about here.

Red Wine Vinegar
There are some available locally but they're not really the good kind.

Pistachios, walnuts, almonds, pecans. Great for baking and salad

Quinoa and Oat Bran
They are available here but there are more selections and  are much cheaper abroad.

Specialty Baking Goods
Almond flour, almond meal when making french macarons for example.

Infant formula
If you have a baby, based on experience, a can of infant formula in the Philippines is twice the price of the same brand I used to buy in the Middle East.

Mexcian or Tex-Mex Canned Goods
You might find refried beans in Rustan's and other deli but they have very limited selections and are extremely expensive. A can of 437 grams refried beans is about Php 182+ In Cebu, I can only find Tortilla Wraps in 2 places: Rustan's and S&R.  There are no ready made sauces apart from the jar of salsa dip. Hence, I learned how to make enchilada sauce from scratch.

Confiture /Specialty Jams and spreads
Good brands are often much more expensive here than buying them overseas. A favorite brand of ours is Bonne Maman. This goes for Nutella too. The locally available peanut butter contains far too much sugar. So far, the best brand available locally is Skippy. It's always a good idea to send peanut butter and Nutella in the box. 

Tea and Coffee
A big yes to these! I was browsing inside a known organic health food store in the city and my jaw dropped at the ridiculous prices of herbal teas and tea bags. They're not even known brands! I think I would have preferred to buy those big wooden gift boxes of specialty teas from Alokozay from the Middle East. They have variety of flavors and would be an excellent gift to send back home.  I used to send Twinings boxes of various tea flavors as pasalubong before and they were always greatly appreciated. If you're willing to splurge, TWG? Hehe, why not?

What about you?
Which food items do you miss that you find difficult to get here?

Love & light,

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  1. I usually send things we have only in my country to some friends abroad, some of our sweets and seasonings and such things. Usually light stuff, because postage here is abnormally expensive. Last time I sent a care package to my friend in USA, not heavier than a kilo, I paid postage seven time higher than the value of what was in the package :) A price of average shoes, lets say.
    How does one send mayo abroad? Isn't it a thing kept in coolers and fridges? And won't olive oil break if in glass bottle?
    LOL on sending detergent and rice :) I once got spaghetti from Holland. Why would I need spaghetti? I do love to get black and fruit tea and sweets, the selection is always different in different countries.

    1. I totally agree with you there. I sent some chocolate to a friend in the U.S. by post and the shipping cost is more expensive than the actual item. The upside as a recipient of boxes in my country, we have no taxes for care packages here because it has been an integral part of our local tradition to receive such from family members living abroad. Though the previous administration here once tried to impose taxes on these and thankfully after lots of opposition and protests, they gave up on the idea. Wrapping glass bottles is the trickiest part. We wrap them in plastic and bubble wrap so that in case of breakage they won't spill and these are strategically placed inside rolled towels or thick clothes. Most of our stuff arrive 100% in tact. The commercial mayo can last for quite some time. We just ensure the expiration dates of these items should not be less than 3 months. Haha you got spaghetti :)) Yes it's always different from every country.

  2. I once received a package from a friend who is now living in the US; she sent me beauty products though haha... And I totally loved it. I have always wanted to receive a package from someone in abroad because I've a friend who always gets something from her mom and I was envious. I don't have a family member living abroad so my friend's gift got me so excited.

    Now that you mention it, I think you listed great items here, something that would definitely appeal to people who like to cook. As with me, I'd rather receive coffee or beauty products :))))

    1. Same here! Beauty products are the best, especially for brands that we can't even get here. Most of them are sooo expensive especially makeup and skin care products. I often ask friends to buy them for me when I know they're coming home and then I usually pay them back when they arrive because they're really very expensive here. I almost had a heart attack when I went to a store and saw the price of a former brand I used to buy and the price difference is ridiculous. Great idea, I will write about non-food related post about care package items soon.

  3. Woah! That’s definitely a care package. Nice post! Anyways, I am looking for good same day courier service as I have to get some of the gifts delivered urgently. Can you help me find a good one? It has been a very long time that I am hunting down for it.

  4. trying to get a box ready to send to my 9 year old niece. Any suggestions on what would be best to send that she would like but also what would make good use to the mother as well

    1. Hi there, I am planning to write a non-edible care package post. Maybe I should. It all depends what their interests are. I noticed that linens such as beddings, towels etc are really expensive in the Philippines and the less expensive affordable ones are not even good quality. IKEA ones are even way better in terms of texture so these will be functional gifts for your niece and her mother. Imported toiletries and beauty products are expensive in the Philippines so these would be much appreciated by both of them. Chocolates may be expensive here but they can be purchased in Duty Free and most American branded products can now be found in S&R or Landers.